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A Cycle of Hunger In Kenya

kenya hunger cycle
A 2011 drought caused an immense famine that affected over 4 million impoverished citizens in Kenya. It was estimated that half a million children, pregnant and breast-feeding women suffered from “acute malnutrition” due to a shortfall of indispensable resources.

Though the 2011 famine has subsided, rural populations are still very susceptible to scarceness of resources. Recent reports surfaced that “four million” Kenyans in urban areas and over 1 million people in rural Kenya are expected to experience shortages.

Kenya has, moreover, experienced tremendous GDP growth. Since 2004, the GDP has been increasing annually at a rate of 5%.  Kenya’s adult life expectancy increased from 54 in 2004 to 60 in 2012.

Kenya’s rapid economic expansion and burgeoning “agricultural sector” have, furthermore, been celebrated. Regardless, the nation has been criticized for “unequal distribution of wealth” that has exacerbated the virulent spread of communicable and water-born diseases as well as food insecurity. The north-western county of Turkana has a startling 87.5% living below the poverty line, while the wealthy capital Nairobi’s has no more than 21%.

On average, 46% of the population is presently living in poverty. Sadly, food insecurity has disproportionately affected adolescents. For example, stunted growth has been observed in about 30% of children, while 20% of children are consistently emaciated.

Global Aid associations have, moreover, made attempts to alleviate juvenile hunger but face obstacles.  Instability of feeding programs have been damaging to Kenyan education initiatives, resulting in 15,000 children from the Turkana region withdrawing from schools. Nancy Laibunu, a Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research policy maker, argued that food insecurity in poorer families pushes them to make harsh choices between food or sacrificing access to educational opportunities and vital healthcare.

The World Food Programme, a poverty relief organization involved in the lives of more than 97 million impoverished people in 80 countries, discontinued efforts in Turkana because of it’s “inaccessibility.” The province lacked sufficient finances to construct a suitable road or rail network that allowed the secure transport of food aid.

United States officials recommended a number of ways to tackle Kenya’s food insecurities. Zhuileta Willibrand, of the United States Department of Agriculture, proposed that Kenya embrace genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).  However, in November of 2013, Kenya banned the importation of GMO’s since the administrative officials considered it disadvantageous to the well-being of the public.

They contended that a “lack of sufficient information” about the “impact of such foods” on a person’s physical condition was enough to prohibit their cultivation.

Kenya’s former Public Health Minister, Beth Mugo, was directed by former President Kibaki to make a scientifically founded decision. On the other hand however, Kenya’s National Bio-safety Authority holds the authority of permitting GMO’s. They oversee the application of advancing bio-technology in “the cultivation” of genetically modified produce.

In May of 2013, Romano Kiome, the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, lifted the ban, calling it an “ill-advised” decision, thus calming the apprehension Kenyan scientists fostered.  They expressed concern that the law was potentially holding back scientific “progress” that could help boost food production and lessen production deficits.

Kenya needs to figure out the proper means to solve their food production problems, especially since 5 million are anticipated to have inadequate amounts of food according to the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis. As it stands, Kenya’s growing population and “urbanization” most likely provoked the nation’s hunger problems.  The report prominently highlights “inadequate crop production,” something GMO’s and advanced farming techniques could supposedly correct. Millions of lives hang in the balance, relying on decisions that government makes.

Joseph Abay

Sources: UNICEF, NY Times, The Guardian, All AfricaAction Against Hunger, Capital Business, Red Cross, SciDev, SciDev, CNN, Business Daily Africa, NY Times, World Bank, Standard Digital News, All Africa, UNICEF, All Africa
Photo: Giphy.com